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Universities have a vital role to play in helping the North East economy recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

The work being delivered by North East universities is supporting new and existing businesses to innovate and grow, and shaping and supporting a more sustainable and inclusive economy.

Durham University, Newcastle University, Northumbria University, University of Sunderland and Teesside University are all members of the North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group, which was established by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic to provide business resilience and ensure a collective response to the economic impact of COVID-19 on the North East economy.

Below is a case study from Northumbria University about its computing students, who recently tested how well-prepared local businesses are for potential cyber-attacks by attempting to hack into their IT systems.

Part of a group of ‘ethical hackers’, the specially-trained students from Northumbria University’s Department of Computer and Information Sciences and innovative Cyber Clinic, attempt to bypass online security systems in order to identify potential threats or weaknesses, which could be exploited by real-life malicious hackers.

The undergraduates were employed as cyber security consultants for the newly launched North East Business Resilience Centre (NEBRC), a non-profit organisation that supports and helps protect businesses across the North East from cyber-crimes.

The NEBRC is a partnership between Northumbria, Cleveland, Durham, Humberside and the North West and South Yorkshire police forces, together with Northumbria and Sheffield Hallam universities.

The Northumbria University students are matched with local businesses where they spend time carrying out vulnerability assessments of businesses’ networks and web applications to identify any weaknesses in IT systems and computers.

They then produce a report outlining the steps that need to be taken to protect the business from real-life attacks.

Local businesses interested in becoming involved in the NEBRC, and employing the skills of the Northumbria University students, can visit nebrcentre.co.uk for more information.

Click here to read more about how universities in the region are playing a central role in supporting the region to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

Click here to read more about the North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group.

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Lucy Winskell